Hearing Sept. 17 on wetlands permit for gas pipeline from Eden to ECI

CAMBRIDGE — A virtual public hearing Sept. 17 will determine if the second leg of a proposed natural gas pipeline between Eden and Westover is permitted.

An 8-inch line will run 10.75 miles from Merser Road south along Ocean Highway terminating at Revell’s Neck Road to serve ECI with plans to serve the University of Maryland Eastern Shore as well as commercial and residential properties along the way.

The Maryland Department of the Environment’s (MDE) Water and Science Administration is reviewing the application from Chesapeake Utilities Corporation.

The pipe will be buried within public rights-of-way approximately 5 feet from the edge of roadway pavement. It will cross wetlands and waters including a 69 ft. section of the Manokin River, a 21 ft. section of Taylor Branch, and a 50 ft. section of King’s Creek.

Trenchless construction methods, primarily horizontal directional drilling, will be utilized.

The Maryland Board of Public Works on July 1 approved over a half million dollars in contracts to start the conversion of ECI’s woodchip-burning cogeneration plant to natural gas. That unanimous decision — over the objections of environmentalists — came two weeks after the Public Service Commission approved Somerset County’s franchise with Chesapeake Utilities.

On July 8, MDE held a wetlands permit hearing for a request by Chesapeake’s subsidiary Eastern Shore Natural Gas to install a 10-inch pipeline 6.83 miles from East Railroad Avenue in Salisbury to U.S. 13 and Flower Hill Church Road in Eden.

The comment period closed July 21 and a recommendation will be forwarded to the BPW for final action.

Chesapeake Utilities states in its application that “the delivery of natural gas would improve” the “environmental profile” of both the state prison and UMES. They currently use propane and fuel oils and at UMES alone the it is estimated there would be a 99.9% reduction in sulfur oxides, a 59% reduction in nitrogen oxides, and a 65% reduction in the natural gas emissions by no longer using propane and fuel oil.

Carbon dioxide discharge would be less by 25%, the company estimates.
“In addition, by transitioning ECI and UMES to natural gas the natural and economic environment of Somerset County as a whole, will likely improve.” Chesapeake further states, “Extending natural gas service…will provide opportunity for residents and businesses, along the line, to have a choice to use less expensive and environmentally beneficial natural gas service.”
One of the opponents is the Sierra Club of Maryland, and the chair of its Lower Shore Chapter Susan Olsen previously wrote, “Somerset County officials are advocating that the pipeline be built, citing badly needed economic development. However, they appear to have not considered renewable energy options.”

The virtual public hearing on this latest permit request starts 6 p.m. Sept. 17 online only or the public may also listen in by phone but be unable to testify. To view or participate in the hearing register at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/9170295720067923726.

If listening by phone call 1-877-309-2074 and enter the access code 810-084-698.

Statements may be submitted in writing in advance to Mary Phipps-Dickerson by Sept. 10 and read into the record. The time limit is 3 minutes.

Questions may also be sent to her, email mary.phipps-dickerson@maryland.gov or write MDE Tidal Wetlands Division, Mary Phipps-Dickerson, 407 Race Street, Cambridge, Md. 21613. Phone 410-901-4033 for more details.

Documents are online at https://mde.maryland.gov/programs/water/wetlandsandwaterways/pages/chesapeake-utilities-pipeline-project.aspx.